While I was on Facebook this morning, I read a short conversation that took place yesterday between two of my closer friends; one from years past and close to my heart, the other newly formed and also close enough to hear my heartbeat.
What struck me as interesting was the subject of their discussion. They talked about poetry. Not just any poetry, but about well-known Sufi poets, both those of many decades or more past, as well as those of more contemporary times.
That subject isn’t one you can find lying around the average library when seeking good reading material. It struck me as relevant, too, that my older friend hasn’t been reading from these poets for very long. He’d discovered them after taking a recommendation from a newer acquaintance. An early morning discussion of Sufi philosophy isn’t usual FB fare, but it happens sometimes between educated people.
I realize that this doesn’t seem significant to the average reader. What makes it significant is that it came on the heels of a report I read this past week on the Illiteracy Reality that was released recently. The numbers on that report would make anyone stand up and protest or sit down in total discouragement.
According to the latest and greatest research, the current number of American adults, classified as functionally illiterate increases by 2.25 million each year.
Stop and think about that for just one second. It equates to having an equivalent population to the city of St. Louis joining the ranks of those who’re reading below a 5th grade level. The number of people who are able to do routine math is even more dismal.
Here’s another factoid for you. When I worked corporate, albeit many years ago for one of the Fortune 500, I was asked to simplify my internal memos. Why? Because, my informant replied, the language structure accepted by upper echelon never exceeds 8th grade reading level. Everyone else, used 5th grade level to communicate.
I was stunned, to say the least. I suppose it comes from jargon needs. Jargon? Oh yeah. Every industry as its own jargon/language. Even fast food joints. This verbal shorthand makes communicating between employees faster, easier, and less likely to confuse the employees.
My question is this: if top level executives at some of the largest corporations in the world need to have internal memos at such a low level of reading competency, can we expect our school children to perform any better?
For long years now, a controversy has been slowly gaining momentum regarding the dumbing down of our school children and our overall population. Here are some numbers that were in this recent report. Once you’ve read them, think about the impact of those numbers on the future. Then go back to the top of this post and think about that conversation between my two friends.
The report cited these numbers:
- 42 million Americans can’t read at all
- 50 million read below the 5th grade level
- 20% of graduating HS seniors are classified as illiterate
- Only 42% of Americans can order two items on a menu, add them up, and calculate the tip
- Only 1 in 5 can calculate mortgage interest
- 1 in 5 can’t calculate weekly salary when given an hourly pay rate
- Only 13% are “proficient” in math: 1 in 10 women, 1 in 25 Hispanics, 1 in 15 African Americans made the grade
- 20 million Americans pay someone else to fill out a 1040EZ tax form w/10 blanks to fill in
- US is ranked 25th in the world of industrialized nations in Math, while US students believe their scores are the highest in the world.
- One half of all 17 yr. olds don’t have the math skills to work in an auto plant
If these numbers are a mere 50% accurate, we’re worse off than anticipated, dreamt, or feared. I suppose that’s why I had such a strong reaction to reading the FB discussion yesterday. Below, you’ll find the links to find the raw numbers that produced the report I found. Try them on for yourself.
If you come to different conclusions, please bring them here and air them out. I’d like to think that this isn’t true.
- Help End Illiteracy (diamondpublicationz.wordpress.com)
- “Moving Up Night” (alwaysalesson.com)
- Guided Reading (alwaysalesson.com)
- School District Drops Grade Levels for New Program (fox8.com)
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